Our region’s football fans got quite a workout with two memorable overtime games over the weekend.
The Rams’ marathon non-loss at San Francisco was more surprising, but Mizzou’s victory at Tennessee was far more emotionally satisfying for folks in these parts.
The Tigers somehow outlasted Tennessee on its home field. They gained a bit more respect in SEC circles while dooming Vols coach Derek Dooley.
Beleaguered Missouri coach Gary Pinkel needed this victory. Battered quarterback James Franklin needed that big OT explosion to reestablish himself as a playmaker.
Freshman wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham needed those TD catches to finally gain playmaker status at the college level.
As for Dooley, fans will remember Saturday’s come-from-ahead loss as his signature failure. Tennessee wasted a ton of offense while finding ways to lose again.
Pundits lined up to write his coaching obituary. Here is a sampler:
Clay Travis, Outkick the Coverage: “Congrats to Mizzou on a 51-48 four overtime win, but for those of us who have watched Dooley-coached football teams for three years, the opponent is irrelevant. We saw incompetence on a massive scale no matter who the Vols played. Today just added to the misery -- two fourth down conversions to wide open receivers on 4th and 9 or more -- how is it possible for a wide receiver to be that open in the end zone!!!! -- an utterly incompetent end of regulation when Dooley chose overtime rather than take a chance at going for the win with one of the best offenses ever assembled in Tennessee history. It's not just that Tennessee is bad, it's that they have a ton of talent and are still incompetent. For two years, Dooley promised that all he needed was time to grow his bamboo. He never told us that when the bamboo finally grew he'd shove the pieces under our fingernails and step on our fingertips with his cane.”
Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: “Tennessee got a bit of a gift after Missouri tied the game late in regulation. The Tigers pooch kicked on the kickoff, giving Tennessee on its own 40-yard line with two timeouts left. And after a couple plays gained no yards . . . Dooley decided to let the clock run out rather than try for a win in regulation. Apparently, Dooley thought the risk of throwing an incomplete pass and having to punt from his own 40 with less than a minute left was too much, and so he didn't even try for the win. By the way, Tennessee has a talented quarterback in Tyler Bray and great receivers, and was 0-5 in SEC play. Volunteers fans booed the decision. Rightfully so. Of course Tennessee lost in four overtimes — with some more bad decisions like passing on a 35-yard field goal attempt to go for it on fourth and 2 in the final overtime. It's hard to find a good reason to bring Dooley back next season. His oddly conservative decision to settle for overtime might be the final straw.”
Mark Wiedmer, Chattanooga Times Free Press: “Having again been painfully reminded that the UT defense again was what its season-long statistics say it is, why not do everything possible to avoid relying on that defense in overtime? Why not throw it down the field on second and third downs to the best collection of receivers in the SEC, if not the entire country? Why not get Cordarrelle Patterson ‘in space,’ as the coaches like to say? Why not throw it high to 6-foot-4 Justin Hunter or on a crossing route to crafty tight end Mychal Rivera, who caught 10 balls this day for 129 yards? Why? Why? WHY?”
David Climer, The Tennesseean: “With 30 seconds remaining in a tie game and with two timeouts in hand, Derek Dooley decided the best course of action was to let the clock run out. After Tennessee lost to Missouri 51-48 . . . there was the unmistakable sense that Dooley’s time as Vols coach also expired. It’s time for a change. Even at the cost of a $5 million buyout, UT simply can’t afford to keep Dooley around for a fourth season. His body of work just doesn’t merit it.”
Chris Low, ESPN.com: “If fan apathy hadn’t already set in, it has now, and there’s just not a lot of hope on Rocky Top that Dooley will ever be able to stop the bleeding. He walked into a mess in 2010 when he took the job and has done an admirable job of strengthening the roster. But Tennessee has gone from a top-tier program that had obviously dipped toward the end of Phillip Fulmer’s tenure to a program now that’s totally irrelevant. There really is no decision now for Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. The only question is if he’ll announce that he’s making a coaching change this week or the next.”
John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel: “Some fans apparently believe the pursuit already has succeeded, and that Jon Gruden has agreed to become the next coach once a few trivial details are worked out. I applaud the possibility in that Gruden would give UT a Super Bowl-winning coach as well as a national celebrity — not a bad combination for a football program whose relevance is receding by the game. In fact, hiring Gruden makes so much sense, I would be OK with him bringing along Mike Tirico, his booth buddy on 'Monday Night Football,' as defensive coordinator. And if they want to coach Saturday's game against Vanderbilt, so much the better. But suppose, for some bizarre reason, the Gruden-to-Tennessee deal falls through. Then, where would UT athletic director Dave Hart look? Hint: As of this writing, Bobby Petrino is still out of work (he won't be for long).”
Pinkel has no time to empathize with Dooley. His coming challenge with Syracuse looks more daunting after the Orangemen upset unbeaten Louisville.
Such is the life of a SEC coach. There is just no let-up on that job.
Some thoughts on the wonderful world of sports:
• Many weird things happened to the Rams Sunday. Most of the breaks went against them. Yet they persevered against a top team on the road, so the resulting non-loss is a step forward in the rebuilding process.
• Quarterback Sam Bradford rallied his team into winning position three times against an elite defense. His professional growth under this regime continues apace.
• Young players will mess up during a crazy road game, but veteran coaches must remain focused. Jeff Fisher’s game management left much to be desired.
• Missouri has never had a basketball team this deep. Case in point: Smooth freshman guard Negus Webster-Chan. He will fight for minutes even when Michael Dixon returns from his suspension and Jabari Brown becomes eligible.
• The real NHL labor talks are only a week old. Given the firm stances of both parties, the weekend stall was no shocker.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while wondering how the Rams got a delay-of-game penalty on what should have been the game-winning field goal:
Is Mike D'Antoni an acceptable Plan B for the Lakers? Would anybody have relished still another Phil Jackson coaching comeback?
“We played with a chip on our shoulder. We were just trying to make a statement that we could compete with anybody in this league.”
— Texas A&M receiver Ryan Swope, after the Aggies upset No. 1 Alabama.